Volunteers hope visit to BYU campus will inspire young students

Posted at 6:13 PM, Mar 21, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-21 20:13:03-04

PROVO, Utah -- Less than 30 percent of students in low-income families nationwide enroll in a four-year school.

A program at Brigham Young University is working to raise that percentage by encouraging children in Title 1 schools to make a goal to go to college.

More than a thousand children roamed the Brigham Young University campus on Friday. The excited fifth and sixth graders came from Title 1 schools in the Alpine, Provo and Nebo school districts for a college experience as part of a volunteer program at BYU called Project Youth.

“We’re hoping that they’ll just get a taste of what college is like,” said Catherine Summers, who is the program director of Project Youth. “We want to show them that it’s not as scary as they think it will be. We want to show them that if they want to make it happen they can.”

About 60 college student volunteers took groups of students to tour the BYU campus.

“Today was really fun,” Sixth Grade Student Maryn said. “I like BYU campus a lot, and we went around and looked at some cool things and it seems really exciting so now I want to go to college here.”

The children also attended motivational presentation and a pep rally encouraging them to prepare for higher education.

“I think that at least they’ll be familiar with the college so they know they can come up here and walk around and know that they can come experience college and that it’s a possibility,” said Sixth Grade Teacher Heather Peterson.

A lot of these fifth and sixth graders have never even been to a college campus, and with Project Youth, the volunteers are not only giving them a fun day but letting them know that they too can go to college. BYU is already seeing the program come full circle.

“We heard a lot of the group leaders say, ‘I remember when I came here as Project Youth; I set the goal to go to college 10 years ago or whenever it was, and now that I’m here on campus I want to help other kids have that same experience,’” said Casey Peterson, who is the BYU Associate Dean of Students.

This is the 16th year that BYU has had Project Youth.

“It’s a small and simple thing, but we hope that it has the potential to make a difference,” Summers said.